A government minister has been in the news apparently for creating the impression that he had advised the police to let off the hook men who rape women they consider indecently dressed.
Fortunately the minister has denied ever making such remarks and clarified his comment in Parliament. But this was not before the comments attributed to him had caused outrage including demands for his resignation.
Unfortunately, there are Ugandans who publicly or quietly endorse similar views to those attributed to the minister. One of them even tweeted, “Women should learn to think with logic and not emotion; it is for their own good to dress decently…”
Whether this was a case of ‘smoke without fire’ or not, the high sensitivity surrounding remarks of such a nature is because rape, for any reason, is such a heinous crime that anyone, let alone a government minister, must never be heard or even personally harbour any sympathies for rapists.
Doing so would be a sign of descent into lawlessness, another version of ‘shoot to kill’, mob justice, ritual murders and sexism. A rapist should never claim moral high ground or be portrayed as enforcing the law.
Rape, for all manner of reasons, is so rampant that the kind of statement in question is simply adding fuel to an already dangerous and out-ofcontrol fi re. Some men rape anything with a skirt. They rape their wives and refuse to admit it is rape; they rape their daughters and step-daughters and even father children with them.
They even rape house helps. Some male teachers rape their female students, luring them by asking them to help them carry their books to their residences. Some soldiers at the front line, including those serving under the auspices of the United Nations, rape women they are supposed to protect. In fact rape is a war crime. The point is, there are men, it would seem, who do not need an excuse to go on raping sprees. And there are men who are for real – decent and know their limits.
Men decide which category they want to be in and if they choose to go the “I will rape that woman, come what may” way, they should not use lame excuses to make their primitive actions someone else’s problem. They probably will rape anyway.
Former president Idi Amin Dada actually outlawed mini-dresses and decreed the length of a dress a woman could wear in public to be no more than three inches above the knee. He also banned head gear such as wigs because they masked dirt.
The truth of the matter is that ban went with its originator. Dress codes are notoriously difficult to legislate for. Do you outlaw miniskirts, slits at the back, front or side, or do you go as far up as head gear? Some countries and cultures insist on women covering everything save for the eyes.
Right now, such clothing is a subject of public discussion in countries like France, with government saying that less is better and more is unacceptable.
In other countries/cultures, adherence to a dress code is not enough to save a woman from sexual assault. She must be accompanied by a man to appear in certain public places. Indeed already there are cultures where, if a woman is raped, it is her fault. There is no need to add Uganda to that list.
Let no one turn Uganda into a women-unfriendly country where our mothers, sisters, spouses and daughters cannot freely go to town, enjoy an evening on the beach or go to church unless men have approved their clothing. Rape is too serious a crime to be peddled in off-the-calf remarks. It is a danger to society.